Monday, March 21, 2011
Click on picture(s) for a larger view.
Answer by Tony Leukering
I was a bit surprised by the answers this week for two reasons: the species submitted and the species not submitted. With an Eastern Towhee as the quiz subject two weeks ago, I was expecting folks to choose among the two black species of Pipilo towhee. Given that most of the quiz bird is obscured by the Rocky Mountain Juniper in which it is perched (and many respondents correctly identified the genus of the tree), I thought that there would be a division of responses between the two species. And, as I've run the same species twice in succession on a couple of occasions in the Mr. Bill Mystery Quiz, I knew that the regulars would not assume that since the previous quiz bird was an Eastern that this one couldn't be.
First off, as a couple of respondents noted, there just are not many options when trying to identify a red-eyed, black-headed passerine. Bronzed Cowbird is one of those options, but that species has an arched culmen, unlike our bird's straight one. Also, that arched culmen means that there is more bill above the cutting edge than below, opposite that of our quiz bird. Additionally, the species has a sloped forehead that does not create an angle at the junction of the bill, unlike on our quiz bird.
So, like two weeks ago, we are left with the Eastern vs. Spotted bit of trickiness. With only the head, there's no way to choose between the two species, short of eeny-meeny-meiny-mo. But, as is evident in the enlarged bit of the quiz photo presented below, we can see that there is more than just the head to go on.
Now, we can see that the bird does, indeed, have rufous sides and extensive white spotting on the scapulars, the latter being the determining factor in opting for the correct answer. I took this picture of a male Spotted Towhee at the hawkwatch site at Dinosaur Ridge, Jefferson Co., CO, on 16 April 2006.
Incorrect species provided as answers:
Bronzed Cowbird - 5
Congratulations to the 24 of 29 getting the quiz correct:
Answer: Spotted Towhee